The Social Media Examiner considers itself the “world’s largest online social media magazine…designed to help businesses discover how to best use social media tools like Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with customers, generate more brand awareness and increase sales” (1). I have personally used it extensively to learn how to reach out to residents in the NYU Lafayette Dorm. I am a resident assistant there in charge of curating content for our Blog and our Facebook page. The Social Media Examiner gave me ideas and advice on how to better interact with my fans and spread the word on the latest building programs.
There is one article on their blog titled, 4 Ways Social Media is Changing your Relationships, which I thought addressed the prompt of this post very well. But of course, this is a more informative article. It discussed in detail 4 fundamental ways social media is changing the ways we relate with people. One, it allows us to connect with others faster. The more connections we have, the more ideas and resources we have access too. Two, It’s easy to overestimate the how intimate our online relationships can be. We might alienate offline friendships and networks in pursuit of online ones. Three, we become more susceptible to the social media contagion effect. This means that we begin to make the behaviors and attitudes of our social network our own. And fourth, social media pushes us to compare ourselves with others. This can have positive or negative effects.
Social Media is responsible for changing our interpersonal relationships in a myriad of ways but the four that this blog chose to focus on are factors that almost anyone with even limited social media experience can relate to. Danah Boyd, in her article, “Friends, Friendsters and Myspace Top 8: Writing Community into Being on Social Network Sites” wrote at length about the social norms of Top 8 culture. The “Top 8” feature was implemented by MySpace to allow users to select eight friends to display on their profile. According to Boyd, this changed the social dynamics of how to order friends. She also agreed that MySpace Top 8 was the “new dangling carrot for gaining superficial acceptance.” The social media examiner’s second way of change, alienation, can be seen in this feature. In pursuit of eight specific online relationships, users alienated their other offline relationships as a result.
Not only that but Boyd wrote that “friending” on social network sites is “deeply connected to a participants offline social life.” In Nancy Baym’s book, Personal Connections in a Digital Age, she says that online groups provide contexts for forming interpersonal relationships. Offline friends acknowledge the new friendship or romance the users make visible to the online community and in turn these connections provide viewers with information about the user and his or her connections, such as: social status, political beliefs, or musical tastes. J. Donath and D. Boyd talked about this in their article, “Public Displays of Connection.” Donath and Boyd both saw how the public display of the “company one keeps” verified one’s own identity.
The Social Media Examiner discussed this in it’s third and fourth change, both of which have to do with the online social network community at large. The connections we make with others, which are public, define who we are online. The effects can be that we start adopting the behavior that we observe in the online space as our own, regardless of whether that behavior is positive or negative. Also, images, updates and content that we view others contributing prompt us to compare our own contribution to theirs. To go deeper, we also start comparing our offline selves to our online friends.
In comparison to Life 2.0, a documentary about several users of the virtual online world, “Second Life,” not much is different. The Second Life users all displayed signs similar to other social network users, albeit in more extreme ways. They created a profile, their avatar. They would network with other users, make new friends and play games. All these are available on social networks like Facebook, even though this social network caters more to the visual and auditory aspects. However, all four changes that the Social Media Examiner discussed apply to Second Life as well, especially number 2. Second Life users, particularly the ones in the documentary, overestimated how intimate their relationships on the site were and this had mostly negative consequences for their offline relationships.